What's in Your Day Pack: Ten Forgotten Items For Unexpected Times

May 05, 2017

By Charlie Schudson

Check your pack now for essential safety items. Remember to bring an adequate amount of water

Safety in numbers – no guarantee, but that’s part of Westerners hiking.  On the trails, someone in each group probably will have, well … just about anything.  After all, many members are advanced hikers; several are Search and Rescue volunteers.  Buried in their backpacks we’re likely to find, well … just about everything. 

But beyond the Westerners, we also hike with family and friends.  Occasionally, trading safety for solitude, some even hike solo.  What should each hiker carry -- for ourselves … our friends … our children and grandchildren?

“Relax,” some might say.  “I know the trail; we’re only going out for an hour or two.”  Famous lost words … famous last words.  On Sedona’s spaghetti-shaped trails, a wrong turn can turn your midday stroll into our search-and-rescue midnight mission.  Even on “easy” trails, a twisted ankle can turn your daylight return into our darkness ordeal.

So aside from the obvious (from cell phones to snacks) what are other essential items we all should carry?  When the short and easy day-hike turns into the dark ordeal, what might be our lifesavers? 

The lists are long and several are available on survival websites, but most include at least these ten items many hikers forget.  Costing little and weighing only about five pounds, these ten may prevent deadly dangers or save a hiker waiting for rescuers to arrive.

1.   Heavy-duty, big garbage bags – they become your sleeping bags or, with a torn-open head hole, your rain gear.

2.   Wool hat and mini-gloves, even in “warm” weather – they help retain your body heat when, at dusk, temperatures fall (most hypothermic deaths occur not in freezing temperatures, but in the fifties).

3.   Waterproof matches.

4.   Duct tape (or “duck” tape, for the etymologically pure).  What for?  Everything, of course (like holding the old soles that just came off those old boots you should have replaced long ago).

5.   Cordage – at least one of those fashionably braided bracelets that unravel to become life-saving straps.

6.   Knife (and consider a “paraknife,” which includes a few feet of cordage). 

7.   Whistle.

8.   Sunblock / insect repellant combination lotion.

9.   First-aid kit, store-bought or self-assembled, with what you are most likely to need.

10.  Flashlight.

But aren’t these obvious?  Apparently not, as measured by what we see on our trails; and certainly not, from what we find on our rescues.  But don’t take my word for it – just open your pack – right now … check it out.

What about other essentials?  You’re right, but there’s a word limit here.  And this column is not about safe hiking practices – it only identifies ten important items among the most often forgotten, most cheap and easy to carry, most likely to save a life.

Still, two final reminders …

Body temperature is critical.  We can survive hunger and thirst longer than cold.  The typically endangered hiker is the day-hiker, wearing shorts and a T, who sets out for a few hours on a sunny day in the seventies, makes a wrong turn or miscalculates daylight, and soon is shivering in the fifties.

Water is essential.  We may survive hunger for days and more, but not thirst.  Before walking out the door, take more water.

And finally, water ….  and did I mention water?

For safer hiking, learn safe practices and surround yourself with safe hikers.  To help you do so in Sedona, consider two outstanding organizations:  Friends of the Forest (www.friendsoftheforest.org) and the Sedona Westerners (www.sedonawesterners.org). 

If you are interested in joining the club, visit the Sedona Westerners at sedonawesterners.org. Our monthly meetings will resume again in September, 2017. 

Sedona Westerners appears every Friday in the Sedona Red Rock NewsThis week’s article was written by Westerner Charlie Schudson, keynoteseminars@gmail.com, who also is a Friends of the Forest member and a Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue volunteer.             

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